World hockey will put players’ safety first as Pakistan gets set to host its first tournament for 20 years in January with talks set to continue in the coming weeks before nations are confirmed in November.
China, Pakistan, and Spain won the rights to host the Olympic hockey qualification events from Jan 13 to 21 next year.
There has been recent unrest in Lahore – the city which is mooted to stage the hockey qualifiers – in recent days with churches and houses set on fire in Muslim attacks on Christian communities.
“The main thing is to go back to Pakistan and to give back to Pakistan, that’s the whole concept,” FIH president Tayyab Ikram said on the sidelines at the EuroHockey Championships.
“It will not be compromised on the players’ or teams security or that the perception is negative that I can assure you.”
Ikram added that talks would commence in the next few weeks with Pakistan officials and other nations.
“Pakistan had a very successful cricket series with Australia, England and New Zealand. Cricket series is not a one-week tournament,” added Ikram.
“There are certain things we must prove as an international federation as Pakistan must do as a host.”
The FIH has other nations on “stand by” should any nation pull out of hosting. According to Ikram there are “two or three” counties.
“At the end of the day, it’s possible we may need to divert our direction,” he added.
There will be some juggling as to which nations go where depending on where hosts Pakistan and Spain end up in the rankings.
The Olympic qualification teams will be realised on Nov 6.
The top three teams in each qualifying event will book their spot for Paris 2024.
“Pakistani hockey fans have been deprived of seeing international hockey stars at home for 20 years now and the FIH Olympic qualifiers will no doubt boost the sport in Pakistan again,” FIH secretary general Haider Hussain told The Times of India recently.
“We are happy many countries supported our stance that if international hockey returns to Pakistan it will help boost the game again in the country.”
Pakistan hosted the Champions Trophy in 2004.